Skip to Main Navigation Skip To Content

Main Content

Kawasaki Disease

Topic Overview

What is Kawasaki disease?

Kawasaki disease is a rare childhood illness that affects the blood vessels. The symptoms can be severe for several days and can look scary to parents. But then most children return to normal activities.

Kawasaki disease can harm the coronary arteries, which carry blood to the heart muscle. Most children who are treated recover from the disease without long-term problems. Your doctor will watch your child for heart problems for a few weeks to a few months after treatment.

The disease is most common in children ages 1 to 2 years and is less common in children older than age 8. It does not spread from child to child (is not contagious).

What causes Kawasaki disease?

Experts don't know what causes the disease. The disease happens most often in the late winter and early spring.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of Kawasaki disease include:

  • A fever lasting at least 5 days.
  • Red eyes.
  • A body rash.
  • Swollen, red, cracked lips and tongue.
  • Swollen, red feet and hands.
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck.

Get medical help right away if your child has symptoms of Kawasaki disease. Early diagnosis and treatment can often prevent future heart problems.

How is Kawasaki disease diagnosed?

Kawasaki disease can be hard to diagnose, because there is not a test for it. Your doctor may diagnose Kawasaki disease if both of these things are true:

  • Your child has a fever that lasts at least 5 days.
  • Your child has a few of the other five symptoms listed above.

Your child may also have routine lab tests. And the doctor may order an echocardiogram to check for heart problems.

After your child gets better, he or she will need checkups to watch for heart problems.

How is it treated?

Treatment for Kawasaki disease starts in the hospital. It may include:

  • Immunoglobulin (IVIG) medicine. This is given through a vein (intravenous, or IV) to reduce inflammation of the blood vessels.
  • ASA to help pain and fever and to lower the risk of blood clots.

ASA therapy is often continued at home. Because of the risk of Reye syndrome, do not give ASA to your child without talking to your doctor. If your child is exposed to or develops chickenpox or flu (influenza) while taking ASA, talk with your doctor right away.

Your child may be tired and fussy, and his or her skin may be dry for a month or so. Try not to let your child get overly tired. And use skin lotion to help keep the fingers and toes moist.

If the disease causes heart problems, your child may need more treatment and follow-up tests.

How serious is Kawasaki disease?

It may be a few weeks before your child feels completely well. But most children who have Kawasaki disease get better and have no long-term problems. Early treatment is important, because it shortens the illness and lowers the chances of heart problems. Follow-up tests can help you and your doctor be sure that the disease did not cause heart problems.

Some children will have damage to the coronary arteries. An artery may get too large and form an aneurysm. Or the arteries may narrow or be at risk for blood clots. A child who has damaged coronary arteries may be more likely to have a heart attack as a young adult. If your child is affected, know what to watch for and when to seek care.

Frequently Asked Questions

Learning about Kawasaki disease:

Other Places To Get Help

Organizations

Canadian Paediatric Society
2305 Saint Laurent Boulevard
Ottawa, ON  K1G 4J8
Phone: (613) 526-9397
Fax: (613) 526-3332
Email: To contact the CPS via email, go to www.cps.ca/en/about-apropos/staff.
Web Address: www.cps.ca
 

The Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) promotes quality health care for Canadian children and establishes guidelines for paediatric care. The organization offers educational materials on a variety of topics, including information on immunizations, pregnancy, safety issues, and teen health.



Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
222 Queen Street
Suite 1402
Ottawa, ON  K1P 5V9
Phone: (613) 569-4361
Fax: (613) 569-3278
Web Address: www.heartandstroke.ca
 

The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada works to improve the health of Canadians by preventing and reducing disability and death from heart disease and stroke through research, health promotion, and advocacy.



Kawasaki Disease Canada
Email: awareness@kdcanada.ca
Web Address: www.kdcanada.ca
 

Kawasaki Disease Canada works to promote the awareness of Kawasaki disease among health professionals, child care providers, and general public.



References

Other Works Consulted

  • Newburger JW, et al. (2006). Kawasaki disease. In FD Burg et al., eds., Current Pediatric Therapy, 18th ed., pp. 497–503. Philadelphia: Saunders.
  • Saulsbury FT (2010). Kawasaki syndrome. In GL Mandell et al., Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, 7th ed., vol. 2, pp. 3663–3666. Philadelphia: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.
  • Shulman ST (2009). Kawasaki disease. In RD Feigin et al., eds., Feigin and Cherry's Textbook of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, 6th ed., vol. 1, pp. 1153–1175. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
  • Son MBF, Newburger JW (2011). Kawasaki disease. In RM Kliegman et al., eds., Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 19th ed., pp. 862–867. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
  • Takahashi M, Newburger JW (2008). Kawasaki disease (mucocutaneous lymph node syndrome). In HD Allen et al., eds., Moss and Adams' Heart Disease in Infants, Children, and Adolescents, Including the Fetus and Young Adult, 7th ed., vol. 2, pp. 1242–1256. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Stanford T. Shulman, MD - Pediatrics
Last Revised January 25, 2013

Last Revised: January 25, 2013

Rate this content:
1 2 3 4 5

Did this page provide you with the information you needed?

Do you feel this information will help you make better health choices?

Will this information help you when talking with your doctor or other health care professional?

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2014 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.